Editorial Note: The Evangelical Portal at Patheos recently launcheda new "Friday Five" series developed by pastor and author Daniel Darling. We begin on Wednesdays and Fridays with a set of highlights from previous interviews Darling has conducted in order to introduce the series to our readership. Then the series will continue with new interviews on Fridays only.
What follows is Daniel Darling's "Friday Five" interview with Christian author, blogger, and speaker, Tim Challies.
Today I'm honored to chat with Tim Challies, who really needs no introduction. Tim maintains the blog, challies.com, one of the most widely read evangelical blogs. Tim is a voracious reader, whose book reviews have helped shape contemporary evangelical thought. He's the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox along with the forthcoming The Next Story (April 2011). He blogs every day at www.challies.com. Tim also worships and serves at Grace Fellowship Church and edits Discerning Reader. He is the cofounder of a new publishing venture, Cruciform Press. Tim is also a web designer and conference speaker.
1) When you began blogging at the turn of the century, did you have any idea of the widespread influence God would give you?
No, I certainly didn't. I set out to do nothing more at challies.com than post pictures of my kids on the Net so my parents and siblings could keep up with life on the northern side of the border (since they had all moved to the United States one year prior). It came as rather a shock after I wrote an article or two that people began to read them and enjoy them and even to ask for more of them. And it came as an even greater shock when the number of readers continued to climb from ten a day to hundreds and then thousands. It is certainly nothing I even considered before it happened. Once it did happen, I had to move from a posture of resignation to a posture of embrace—something that actually took me several years. I think that was a healthy process to go through since it really showed me that I need to look at this strange phenomenon as something to be stewarded for God's glory. And that is what I seek to do now, day by day.
2) I'm amazed at your output. You regularly produce substantive content on your blogs, you write books and e-books, you speak, and you're launching a publishing company. Do you just not sleep?
I enjoy sleep and try to get at least 7-8 hours of it every day. I'm no Carson or Mohler here, able to work morning, noon, and night. It is actually quite rare for me to do any substantial work outside of my usual office hours of 8 to 5. What I have done is try to keep my life simple, which frees me from having to spend 10 to 12 hours a day in an office or commuting to and from it. My wife and I have chosen a lifestyle that allows us to live in a small house (I don't know how big our home is, but it's under 1000 square feet and is, quite literally, the cheapest home in our town), allows us to have a single car, allows my wife to be a homemaker, and so on. Because we've kept our cost of living down, I haven't had to work quite as hard to earn enough to pay our bills and keep food on the table. And that, in turn, has freed me to focus on things like blogging and book writing, which, while they do provide some income, are not ever going to make me rich.
3) You review a ton of books every year. I'm guessing you're flooded with books from publishers, etc. How do you sort through them and decide which ones to read?
Yes, I do receive quite the flood of books. Just looking at the stacks beside me I can see that I have received twenty-one in the past two days (though that's probably a little higher than usual). It does leave me with the chore of sorting the good from bad. It's usually quite simple to filter out the worst of the worst (they immediately get thrown away), but a little bit trickier to sort the gold from the silver, if you get my meaning. What I tend to do is choose books that look like they will be interesting, well-written, and compelling to the readers of my site. I tend to give away most of the books that I do not review, simply because I do not have room for all of them. The walls in my office are already lined with books and there are more on the floor than there should be. The real challenge for me is to make sure I am reading books for my own edification and not just reading them as a means to the immediate end of tearing off a quick review.